Since my company maintains sales, service, and product engineering
operations in the Santa Clara area, I have frequent opportunities to visit the
Silicon Valley area for business meetings. During a recent trip, I was able to
visit with several companies regarding innovative IT ideas. In this week's
feature I would like to share some of my observations from these visits with
My First Stop - A New Software
My first stop was a new software start-up in the San Mateo area called
Virtual Headquarters. This new software
company has been capitalized by a group of investors including a "Big 6"
consulting firm. Both the business and product development teams are a comprised
of seasoned industry professionals. Their product launch will be in 1998.
For the folks at Virtual Headquarters, our conversation was an
opportunity to get some real world feedback regarding their product concepts.
For me, it was a chance to get an inside look at the technology behind next
generation applications. As usual, I signed a non-disclosure agreement - so I
can only talk in generalities.
Virtual Headquarters is very focused on products which falling into
the executive reporting, data mart, and supply chain management marketing space.
Most of what I saw was client server based. However, many of the the intranet
application concepts they outlined for me were exciting. To me, it underscored
the fact that many of the application software products which will see in the
1998 releases will require a significant intranet foundation to be in place. If
you are looking for justification to implement an intranet at your company, try
this one - many innovative new applications will not run without an intranet
I came away from my visit with a better appreciation for what
specialized data warehouse and data mart databases can do for our company. I
also peeked behind the technology curtain to see what tomorrow's application
platforms will look like. My sense of urgency about the quality of our intranet
had certainly increased by the time I left Virtual Headquarter's offices.
Next - A Quick Stop into Fry's
The next day I drove over to our corporate office in Santa Clara. I
always try to stop by this office for several hours to see what new software or
hardware our California employees were considering requesting. Each trip I also
try to spend a few hours at Fry's Electronics (in Sunnyvale) just to see what
technology products the crowds are gathered around. If you've never heard of
Fry's, click here for an
explanation (but be warned - this humorous review contains many four letter
Both of these Silicon Valley visits help to keep me from having to
learn about important new software and hardware products through employee
purchase requests. This trip I found the hot topics to be 56k modem standards,
JAZ drives, the new Palm Pilot, switching ethernet hubs, Riven (the sequel to
Myst), Office 97, Windows 98 Beta, Netscape vs. Explorer, and digital cameras
(in no particular order).
Last - An Application Site
After my on the spot market research at Fry's, I headed over to a
meeting with another semiconductor equipment maker which is a global partner of
our company. The purpose of the visit was to walk through their Customer
Response Center (CRC) in order to see their work flow approach, as well as their
CRC's technology foundation. This is a business function our company is
Again, I was impressed with the innovative use of intranet technology.
The center had current customer status information displayed on monitors around
the center, but more importantly, the same information and the associated
details were available through the intranet to anyone, anywhere, worldwide. This
was accomplished through the use of replicated databases, active server pages,
and server based programs. Again, I walked out of a visit with a deeper
appreciation for the importance of intranet based applications and a much longer
information technology "To Do" list.